“Drum recognizes no color line, not even on its 125-man staff, where black and white work side by side. When the Rhodesian government boasted that ‘better-class Africans, properly dressed and properly behaved,’ would not be discriminated against, Drum tailored one of its Negro reporters in an expensive suit, equipped him with a certificate of education from a white university professor, then assigned him to order a meal in a Salisbury railway station cafe. As the reporter was thrown out, Drum cameras clicked.”
That is an excerpt from the September 7, 1959 issue of TIME magazine, reporting on the phenomenon of DRUM magazine. It went on to tell how “Each month 240 000 copies are distributed across Africa—more than any other magazine, black or white”.
This month, DRUM magazine turns 60. For 60 years it has told South African stories; stories of people, of culture, of politics, stories in photographs. And it sells in the region of 120 000 copies a week.
In honour of its birthday, and its undoubted place in the history of South Africa, Media24 Weekly Magazines will publish a special edition, DRUM 60, that goes on sale at the end of the month. They are also hosting a mother of a party at Emperors Palace on October 26.
“DRUM 60 will bring together all the elements that make this title one of the best in South Africa, highligting not only important moments in the magazine’s and South Africa’s history but also showcasing the characters behind DRUM. It is a fusion of experience and experiences,” DRUM editor Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa says.
“I have ensured our new generation of authors, journalists and social comentators have been well-represented in the magazine. For me it is very important to illustrate how DRUM journalists of old inspired and motivated my peers to be what we are. Zukiswa Wanner, Lebo Mashile, Mike Nicol and Simphiwe Danaare just some of the bylines and names that lent us their voices in the compilation of this issue.”
Zwane-Siguqa hasn’t forgotten the legends: journalists such as Henry Nxumalo, Nat Nakasa and Can Themba. Nor the stories of our past, when those journalists covered life in Sophiatown, forced removals and apartheid race laws. And no memorial issue would be complete without a story on thos iconic DRUM covers and the famous photographs by photographers such as Peter Magubane, Alf Kumalo and Jürgen Schadeberg.
As it says, “The establishment of Drum Magazine in the 1950s, notwithstanding the newly-elected Nationalist Party’s policy of Apartheid, reflected the dynamic changes that were taking place among the new urban Black South African – African, Indian and Coloured – communities.
“The magazine became an important platform for a new generation of writers and photographers who changed the way Black people were represented in society.”
[Dolly Rathebe photographed at a Johannesburg mine dump by Jurgen Schadeberg for a DRUM cover. Shortly after the pictures were taken on 1957 the couple were questioned for possibly breaking the immorality act after police saw them together.]
It tells how the magazine was initially called The African Drum but was taken over by Jim Bailey and a team of writers and photographers who worked together to create its urban style that focused on African culture and life, and recognized as a “became an important platform for emergent African nationalist movement:. It was the most widely read magazine in South Africa.
South African History Online reports “Jim Bailey did not approve the publication of any reports or photographs of the Sharpeville massacre, nor the terrible working and living conditions of migrant workers on the mines – reportedly due to his father’s involvement in the gold mining industry. The magazine has since been accused of not reporting adequately on the political events of the time.
“However, Drum was an important vehicle for voicing resistance during the 1950s – from the Defiance Campaign to the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. It served as a means to unite and mobilise resistance, an important example being the photographs that accompanied Nelson Mandela’s statement, ‘We Defy’, in the August 1952 issue.”
Today, DRUM magazine is the sixth largest consumer magazine in South Africa.
Happy 60th Birthday, DRUM!
[Reggae singer Lucky Dube who died during a hijacking]
[Singer Brenda Fassie performs on stage]
DRUM cover collage by South African History Online.